News

VCF Midwest Canceled for 2020

Email notice has been sent out that the Vintage Computer Festival Midwest has been canceled for 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The organizer suggests cancelling your hotel reservations and travel arrangements.

All may not be lost for 2020, though; the email goes on to say "we are considering a Virtual VCFMW to be held on one or more of the dates allocated for this year's show (Sept 12 or 13, 2020).  If we think we can pull off something half as entertaining as the real thing, maybe we'll do it.  Watch your email for announcements sometime in August.

#RetroFair and VCF PNW Cancellation

Last week, the coronavirus pandemic resulted in some necessary measures that canceled 2020’s Vintage Computer Festival Pacific Northwest, which was to be held March 21st and 22nd. Slowing the spread until it can be more effectively fought makes good sense.

Just because the face-to-face social aspects of the event won’t be taking place doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no hope for a little fun, though. We’re tech people, after all, and this newfangled internet thingy is just the ticket. Think of it as a venue change from Seattle to Cyberspace.

The simple idea John Kennedy came up with and has been promoting on Twitter is #RetroFair, a Virtual Retrocomputing Fair. His challenge to the community:

Make a 5 minute video about your favorite retro computer or game system and publish it to YouTube on March 21/22.

I’d add that if you participate, tag your post with a #RetroFair hashtag on YouTube so it can more easily be found. Post, look around, comment, and like! If you’ve posted something COSMAC related, be sure to let people know about it on the COSMAC ELF forum!

I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with!

New COSMAC ELF Group Owner

Earlier today I posted this announcement to the COSMAC ELF Forum:

It's been about 18 years since I started the cosmacelf group as a support forum for a Palm OS based ELF emulator I'd written. For something that began as a lark, I think it's been wildly successful, but from the very first posts the group owed its success to its members' contributions. The creations and discussions here continue to amaze and delight.

You are the heart and soul of this forum, and as long as you're here, the group will continue to thrive -- even if "here" changes, as it has, twice.

Against that backdrop, it is a relatively small thing to announce that I am turning ownership of the COSMAC ELF group over to Josh Bensadon, effective immediately. Josh has been a contributor almost from the start and one of the group's first moderators. He is brilliant and kind and enthusiastic about technology, and I believe this group could not be in better hands. Please welcome him and support him in the new role.

I'll continue to run the sporadically maintained cosmacelf.com website, and I will continue promoting the group there. I also expect to stick around here as a member.

I'm thrilled to have played a role in the genesis of this group. I hope it has been a source of inspiration and the seed of new friendships, and I hope that it continues to be so for years to come.

Thanks for inspiring me,
Dave Ruske

COSMAC ELF Group Moving to Groups.io

This isn’t the first time the COSMAC ELF group has moved, but it’s been a while.

On April 2, 2001, the COSMAC ELF forum debuted at a website named myforum.net (now long defunct, but the old cosmacelf.myforum.net can still be viewed thanks to archive.org).  The main goal, at the time, was simple: to provide support for a Palm OS based ELF emulator. There wasn’t much traffic, but even so the website was clunky, so in December of 2001 the forum moved to Yahoo Groups.

Yahoo hosted the group for over 17 years, and has served the community well. In recent years, however, Yahoo Groups has stagnated. No features have been added in several years, attachments get handled inconsistently, and most recently Photo uploads broke altogether. Most ominously, however, Yahoo no longer provides a support path for reporting these issues and getting them addressed.

Enter groups.io.

Like Yahoo groups, groups.io supports interaction both through email and via their website. The similarity to Yahoo’s base functionality isn’t surpising: the founder of groups.io is Mark Fletcher, who in 1998 started the business that Yahoo bought in 2000 to create Yahoo groups (more on this history here).

The new group should give you everything Yahoo had, including the Files and Photos sections. The editor on the website supports simple text formatting options like bold and italic text, bullet points, hyperlinks, and inline images. The group will also have a Wiki, allowing you to add persistent, organized content pages about your own projects or collections.

Another nice feature is that any member can download an archive of the group’s content with the click of a button, addressing concerns about loss of content should something unexpected happen, like groups.io going out of business.

Will groups.io be perfect and please everyone? I doubt it. Will there be issues? Probably. Once you get past “SEQ IDL,” life gets complicated. There is reason to believe that groups.io will be an improvement over Yahoo, though.

The old group content will be copied to groups.io soon. When this happens, members with valid email addresses in the Yahoo group will receive a notification of the transfer. After the transfer is completed, the Yahoo group will effectively become read-only, with announcement text redirecting visitors to the new forum.

Hopefully this will be a good move for our community.

The boxes are packed and the truck is idling outside.

See you at our new home, https://groups.io/g/cosmacelf .

Lok’s ELF 2000 Gallery

9 ELF2k final hex cover


Lok thought the Spare Time Gizmos ELF 2000 was a great little computer, but the kits were no longer available. Undaunted, he used the schematics and firmware to build his own from scratch, handwiring it as many did the much simpler original ELF. Then Lok took the project to the next level, crafting an eye-catching maple cabinet for it and topping it off with a plastic dust cover.

For a full set of photos and the story behind Lok’s creation, check out its gallery page.

Thanks for the contribution, Lok!

The Games of Joseph Weisbecker

Photo of Joseph Weisbecker's "Bits and Spaces" game prototype; photo courtesy of The College of New Jersey, reproduced here by permission.


The inventor of the COSMAC architecture, Joseph Weisbecker, had a seemingly boundless enthusiasm for computing. It showed not only in the microprocessor line he created and promoted for RCA, but in the variety of logic puzzles and games he designed to teach and entertain. These are now showcased in a new exhibition at The College of New Jersey, Playing With Innovation: The Games of Joseph Weisbecker.” 

According to curator Florencia Pierri, who organized the exhibition, “it's centered around the paper-and-plastic games that Weisbecker made when he wasn't busy working at RCA. The exhibit focuses on the computer-centric games he and others created, and their place in the history of computing.”

While many of us have seen Think-A-Dot before, some of these games exist only as prototypes and were never commercially available. The online exhibit is nicely organized; click on any game’s picture to get more details on the artifact. The exhibit concludes with some of Weisbecker’s early computer prototypes, including an 1801-based FRED 2 that Herb Johnson has thoroughly detailed on his website. (Herb is also acknowledged as a contributor to this exhibition.)

If you’re in the New Jersey area and would like to visit the exhibition in person, you can find details here.

High Quality OCR Questdata

QuestDataPic

Steve Brune has been busy rescanning Questdata newsletters, with most pages from his own originals, and has made them available here. The new versions look great at 600 DPI with searchable OCR text, but the old versions are still available as well for those who need much smaller, faster downloads.

Thanks for the contribution, Steve!

VCF Midwest 12

The Vintage Computer Festival Midwest continues until 4 p.m. this afternoon, so if you’re in the Chicago area there’s just a few more hours to get in on the fun! Take plenty of photos and send links via the Facebook page so those of us who couldn’t make it can share a sliver of the experience. Have a great time, everyone!

Update September 16, 2017: Links to photos of VCF Midwest are now up on their website.

Boyd Calculator on Hackaday

Al Williams wrote up a nice little article for Hackaday about work he, Bill Rowe, and other forum members have been doing to repurpose some old Boyd calculators based on RCA’s CDP1805. Check it out here!

COSMAC ELF Manual & Build Details

COSMAC ELF Users Manual

After creating a beautiful replica of the original COSMAC ELF, Paul Schmidt documented the heck out of it and made his hard work available for others to learn from. If you want to build one of the simplest computers of the mid-1970s, this is definitely the place to start!

Paul granted permission for his work to be made available here. You can find links on the Books & Papers page for the full ZIP file containing the manual, schematic, parts list and templates, or you can just browse the PDF manual to learn more about the machine.

Build one of your own, then drop by the forum and share your experience!